Q Why can priests marry?

A This would be easier to explain if the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism in Christianity were compared. Think of Catholicism as the Tendai or Shingon sects of Buddhism existing from ancient times, and Protestantism as Buddhism for the masses from the Jodo Shin (True Pure Land) sect and other sects thereafter. While Catholic priests are prohibited from marrying, Protestant clergy are allowed to marry.

Priests in the Tendai and Shingon sects as well as Zen which all fall under the Catholic category, are prohibited from marrying. Priests in the Jodo Shin sect, which falls under the Protestant category are allowed to marry.

Shinran, the founder of Jodo Shin sect at the end of the twelfth century, was the first Buddhist priest to marry. He felt that one had to serve Buddha by not abandoning the secular world and by living the same kind of life as the common peo-ple. Shinran married at age thirty and lived out his life as a priest who continued his training while supporting a family.

Theravadin Buddhism strives for individual deliverance from earthly bondage through training. The ravadin Buddhism which spread throughout the Southeast Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Thailand does not permit priests to marry.